Walmart Using VR to Evaluate and Promote Employees

If you want to move up the ranks at Walmart, you may have to up your VR game.  The company is using virtual reality to help test employees who want to move up to middle management. During the simulation, employees are scored on how they to respond to things like angry customers, underperforming co-workers, misplaced items and messy aisles.

Hiring managers then receive a color-coded report of strengths and weaknesses. Do they have knowledge of the store? How do they communicate with an irrational customer or fellow employee? How do they prioritize their work? This can help the company decide who to promote and who may need additional training. The VR assessments have been given to over 10,000 workers so far.

VR Evaluation to Score Employees on Body Language

As of now, scores are based solely on how well workers answer questions during the VR test. In the future, Walmart will also be assessing a persons body movement while responding to challenges in the virtual world. According to the company, this could give a more complete picture of a candidate’s potential.

One employee has already benefited after taking the VR evaluation. David Arias from the Economy, PA supercenter location, gained promotion to team leader and a 10% pay raise.

“I scored pretty evenly both in the ability to train and the ability to lead,” said Arias who was been with the company for 12 years.

Walmart VR Evaluation Virtual Reality - YellRobot
credit: Walmart

Fair to All Employees?

Of course, assessing workers skills and body language by using VR does raise some concerns. Some fear it will not be able to fully assess all of the characteristics that make up a good employee. Some who don’t have experience with virtual reality maybe be put at a disadvantage. The company says the VR evaluation is just another tool and not meant to be a replacement for traditional assessment procedures.

“VR is a touchpoint in our selection process. It’s not a disqualifier or a mandatory part of the promotion process. VR has substantiated what we as a manager see in someone as potential,” said Beth Nagel, Walmart human resources market manager for the Pittsburgh area.

Walmart Training Video

Walmart Using VR to Train Employees

Walmart is also using virtual reality to help train employees. They have headsets at 4,600 US stores which help workers improve on things like customer interaction, stocking shelves and operating new retail tech.

The virtual reality training, which the company began incorporating in 2018, also lets employees see things from another person’s perspective. They may experience things as a customer who is stuck on a long line or an employee who has to clean up a messy aisle. The company believes this will help employees show more empathy towards what another is dealing with while in the store.

Virtual Reality Can Help Companies Cut Costs

With Walmart using virtual reality to train and assess workers, other companies are bound to follow the world’s largest employer. Does VR provide a benefit to the worker? Maybe.

It does provide value to the company. By using virtual reality software, companies can employ more uniform training and assessments. It will take the human element out of judging employees and puts it on artificial intelligence. It can also cut down on costs and free up trainers for other tasks.

Walmart plans to expand the VR evaluation program to more stores. No word on timeline or what types of positions will be incorporated.

Check out our articles on Walmart’s AI Lab on Long Island and robot drug counselors in China.